Thoughts on Arsenal vs. Plymouth

Arsenal 3 – 1 Plymouth (Van Persie 47, 84, Gray 49 (og) Duguid 52)
Highlights here; Arsene’s reaction here

A fairly routine win over Plymouth, and it’s a trickier looking tie away to last year’s finalists Cardiff in the next round.  I have to say, it was a rare delight to see an Arsenal side who were comfortably better than their opponents.  We used to see that on a regular basis in the league, but sadly those days are gone.

It was also pleasing to see us taking the competition seriously, with only Manuel Almunia and Emmanuel Adebayor rested.  The FA Cup probably represents our best chance of a trophy this season, and I am eager to see us play at the new Wembley.  Credit also to the Plymouth fans, who were plentiful and vociferous.

There is a fairly comprehensive write-up of the game on the official site – I made several mental notes during the game, which I’ll do my best to regurgitate below:

  • I’ve seen that Aaron Ramsey has come in for a lot of praise this morning.  For me, there are evident upsides and downsides to his game, all of which could be said to arise from his admiration of Steven Gerrard.  The Welshman has alluded to basing his game on the (disgraced) Liverpool captain, and there are undoubted positives to that: Ramsey is willing to drive at defences and take shots on from range – something we often lack in the centre of the park.  However, Ramsey also shares Gerrard’s tendency to try the heroic lunging tackle when tracking the man might be more beneficial; to shoot when a team-mate is better placed; to play the ‘Hollywood’ pass when a man is free square.  I am reminded of an incident in the first half when a corner was cleared away to Ramsey on the halfway line.  Under pressure from two men, the only sensible option was to pass back to Fabianski, but instead he tried to beat his man and lost the ball.  Of course, time is on Ramsey’s side, and many of these errors can be put down to inexperience.  His potential remains enormous.
  • If, in three years time, Ramsey is anything like as mature as Samir Nasri, then we will be extremely fortunate.  This guy is 21: the same age as Amaury Bischoff, and a full year older than Abou Diaby, and yet he is an automatic selection and one of the more mature players in the side.  His stocky frame and running style remind me of Carlos Tevez, and when he shifted into the ‘Number 10′ role behind Robin van Persie for the last half-hour of yesterday’s game he caused havoc every time he got the ball.  Nasri is proof positive that when Arsene buys, he still has an eye for a player.
  • I mentioned Abou Diaby.  This boy is a conundrum.  I can see the obvious potential the Frenchman possesses, but to my mind he lacks one of the most essential attributes for any player claiming to be a central midfielder: accurate passing.  The impression one gets with Diaby is that as a child his size and skill enabled him to dribble round entire teams and walk the ball into the net, meaning he simply never developed the ability to pick out a man.  Credit to him: yesterday was obviously an audition for the defensive midfield role, and he showed more positional discipline than usual.  However, on several occasions he carelessly gave the ball away, and there was even one incident where a pass aimed at Sagna went straight into touch – even Diaby held his hands to his face and gasped at its awfulness.  I don’t know what will become of this player, but if central midfield is his destined position, then it’s vital this element of his game improves.
  • Johan Djourou started alongside William Gallas, and put in another assured display.  However, I refuse to believe are problems at centre-half are in any way solved.  First of all, both of his potential partners, William Gallas and Kolo Toure, seem to be on their way out of the club.  Secondly, I think we all agree that what we need is a defender who is aerially agressive and dominant.  Djourou is 6’4″, and yet doesn’t get sent forward for corners.  Does he sound like that player?  I’m not convinced: the Swiss is more a Ferdinand than a Vidic.
  • Kieran Gibbs replaced the injured Mikael Silvestre, and immediately showed that he deserved to start.  Sometimes Silvestre’s experience can be an asset, but I’m not sure that this was one of those occasions, and Gibbs gave an exuberant display of which he can be very proud.  A loan move to a Premier League club is the next step for this lad.
  • Lukasz Fabianski was at fault for the goal, and generally terrifies me.  I’m sure those who champion him mistakenly identify his erratic charging out of goal as ‘commanding his area’ or some other nonsensical phrase.  I am much, much happier when Almunia is between the sticks.

Anyway, just some things that struck me.

You may have noticed I’ve been unusually quiet on the transfer front.  All of that ends next week.

Gunnerblog is the brainchild of childbrained football writer James McNicholas. Aside from Gunnerblog, James currently contributes to Bleacher Report, The Mirror and ESPN.